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Homeland Showdown Nears

A day before senators headed into a showdown over the president's proposal to create a new homeland security department, Mr. Bush said a dispute over labor rights threatened to leave America unprepared to "take the enemy on."

Democrats, who control the Senate by just a one-vote margin, largely oppose Mr. Bush's demands to be allowed for reasons of national security to implement a new personnel system in the agency and waive union job rules for the proposed department's 170,000 employees. Mr. Bush again threatened, in forceful terms, to veto any bill that does not include those powers.

He was seeking to persuade a few key wavering senators to back a bipartisan Bush-endorsed alternative to the Democratic homeland security bill. Some votes on side issues are expected starting Tuesday after three weeks of debate.

"It's a bill that will make America more secure and anything less than that is a bill which I will not accept," Mr. Bush told about 2,000 people gathered in a flag-adorned airport hangar at a New Jersey Army National Guard facility. "We must be flexible, we must be strong. We must be ready to take the enemy on anywhere."

After the campaign-style welcome rally, Mr. Bush was heading to a fund-raiser for Republican Douglas Forrester, seeking to unseat embattled Democratic incumbent Sen. Robert Torricelli.

Mr. Bush also chided senators for not sending him legislation he wants that he says will reinvigorate the economy, including energy legislation, a measure guaranteeing terrorism insurance and appropriations bills that include restraints on federal spending.

"What's happening in the economy is not good enough for a stronger America and Congress can help," he said at the rally. "What we need in Washington is fiscal responsibility, fiscal sanity. We need to set priorities with your money. And the most important priority I have is to defend the homeland, to defend the homeland from a bunch of killers who hate America."

Mr. Bush's policy speech allowed the White House to bill taxpayers for a portion of the otherwise all-political trip.

The Forrester fund-raiser was to be the opening event of an especially heavy week of fund raising for the president, who has blazed new fund-raising records this year.

By gathering $1.5 million Monday for Forrester, according to White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, Mr. Bush raised his total for GOP candidates in this year above $117 million.

And he was showing no signs of a slowdown six weeks before the November election, scheduling four fund-raisers in three states. Bush is aggressively backing Republican candidates in an effort to recapture the Democratic-run Senate, which has been a graveyard for many of his initiatives.

Ousting Torricelli would be particularly sweet for Republicans. Torricelli was chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2000, and helped Democrats gain control of the Senate.

A Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers poll earlier this month showed the race a statistical dead heat — a dramatic reversal of fortune for Torricelli, who led Forrester by 14 percentage points in June.

The little-known Forrester has been raising ethics issues against Torricelli, who was "severely admonished" over the summer by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting and failing to report gifts from a businessman now in jail for making illegal campaign contributions, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller.

Democrats said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., would help raise some $500,000 for Torricelli's campaign and the party, and later join New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey and Torricelli at a union rally.

Mr. Bush has three other fund-raisers scheduled this week.

On Thursday in Houston, he'll headline his second money-raising event this year for John Cornyn, the GOP Senate nominee in Texas.

On Friday, he'll stump in Denver for Bob Beauprez, a House candidate with no elected experience in a tight contest for a newly created Colorado district.

Later that day, he plans to raise money in Phoenix for Arizona gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon.